Boutique Hotel. Only the words get the imagination going. Before I dog eared the pages of Herbert Ypma’s first Hip Hotels book I was fascinated with the industry of boutique hotel properties. “How cool will it be to be the general manager of the cool boutique hotel?” I often found asking myself as I flipped through the pages of his magnificent photos. Making an effort to make a career out of the hotel industry, I was convinced that I just had to be involved with a boutique hotel someday.
That someday came true, when in 2004 I had been invited to be the general manager of the things was and still is just one of Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity just to take part in this unique world. The art, the design and style, the vibe. I had never really worked anywhere having a “vibe”. Per year later and I knew, I knew what many in the hotel business tend not to…what it is really like to be the gm of a hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everyone and amazing for a lot of.
You will find a mini storm brewing inside the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved in this industry understand. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, increasingly more bad hiring decisions are now being made. The best General Mangers will work in the wrong hotels. Like a square peg along with a round hole, a few things accomplish not work. Who may be to blame and what can be done?
The Boutique Hotel: First let me first tell you that I possess a narrow take a look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I believe that this term “Boutique” when employed to describe a hotel is frequently misapplied. A prnewswire.com is not really based on simply a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel has to be an independent operation. Your accommodation should not be part of a collection that is certainly a lot more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you receive into using a corporate hierarchical management style that is needed in operating a large company and maintaining brand consistency. Take W Hotels for instance. In my view they are not boutique hotels. They look such as a boutique hotel, even feel as if one. Many boutique hotels would strive to be as great as being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by way of a rzaufu corporation. The home level management makes only a few decisions as to what services are available and exactly how the property is run. A boutique hotel should be operated as near to the actual physical operation as is possible. W’s and so on are fantastic, but in my view don’t fit the definition of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels are also constantly re-inventing themselves, being sure that their fickle guest never lose interest and search to stay in the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers chose to remain at a boutique hotel because of the story, or perhaps the experience. The experience is essential and should be unique and somewhat innovative. The overall demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years old, work in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a higher degree of service. When Ian Schrager entered the marketplace as to what many consider to become the initial boutique hotel, this demographic found that they can use their travel budget get them a room in a cool, hip hotel instead of a generic mid-level branded property. And the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, leading edge home design and in some cases an urban location. The current market is expanding and also the demographic model explained earlier is starting to bleed into others. You may adequately find a Fortune 500 CEO staying in a boutique hotel. It really is hard to ignore the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to prevent losing market share towards the boutique world. Some hotels are in reality taking the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations in order that their properties are authentically boutique. Take the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for instance. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so they could operate and compete in the new marketplace more independent hotels. They are now simply “The Kahala” and therefore are spending so much time to be authentically local and independent of any major brand identification. I believe others will follow.
In the interests of this publication, I will utilize the luxury hotel as the comparison for the boutique because most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about becoming a general manager at a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Will it be that different? The basic principles are identical. The overall manager is responsible for the whole daily operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The key for both varieties of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest with a top end luxury hotel expects so that you can connect with the resort general manager, as perform the guests with a boutique property. It is actually all high touch.
The difference is that a boutique hotel general manager wears just a few more hats than the luxury general manager. A boutique general manager may be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am as well as at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from round the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the final time you saw the general manager of the Peninsula Beverly Hills with the arm full of towels? Don’t get me wrong, I know that this general manager of the Peninsula would do that in a second, if they needed to. The overall manager of a boutique hotel Must, because there is nobody. The main one server working the restaurant is also probably in charge of taking care of the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and so on…. The overall manager of a boutique hotel may also be even the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. If the gm is at California then the gm may find themselves breaking just about every position just to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of a hot boutique property within the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy during the summer season is really low, you encourage a lot of your team to take their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who goes high on this really is your chief engineer, one of two engineers for the entire five acre property. He goes home to the motherland, Germany for a week. Now simply because it’s hot does not necessarily mean that you simply don’t have customers. Some tourists manage to love the temperature, so it was using this steamy day in August. Since the sun starts to set, your friends and relatives make their way from the pool to their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone switches on their aged air conditioning units full blast so they can cool off. Your only other engineer went home for the day. It is at concerning this time that the calls start arriving. The ac units are freezing up. The previous units freeze up while they are switched on full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you might be, within your office doing the forecast for the weekly corporate status report call when the front desk calls you in a panic, “the guests are flipping out” cries your brand-new front desk agent. You browse the calls and discover that you require your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cell phone (you cant afford to cover a mobile phone for him) has run out of time -you cant reach him! So where do you turn? You head to the rooms to see if you can fix them. Room by room you tackle the challenge of explaining for your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full which it should take at the very least 2 hours for that ice established round the coils to melt. Then you start looking for that circuit breakers, that are scattered all over the 60 year-old property. Once you make it to the last room the guest who answers the entrance almost screams at the sight of the sweaty, dirty general manager holding a tool box using a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the identical guy who was pouring us Mimosas on the pool this morning honey?” asks the guest while you begin your repairs. After the craziness is over you have a call on your mobile phone. Yes, it is your engineer returning your call. “You attempting to reach me boss?”. The very next day, throughout your conference call you pay attention to a speech regarding how general managers must spend more time with their guests rather than within their offices. Duh, you think as you make an effort to scrub the grit out of under your fingernails.
The financial realities of any boutique hotel are unique. The appearance of three to five star service using a two star finances are the norm, and the gm’s get caught in the center. The boutique hotel just does not have your budget to staff just like a true luxury property and everybody has to pull how much they weigh. The gm who does not will not be there long and hate every second of their lives.
Combined with the additional sweat and frustration of being a boutique hotel gm would be the rewards. For the right individual, they will likely find that the entrepreneurial management style required of these is highly empowering. The gm can easily make a great deal of decisions by themselves, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The truth that some towels have to be acquired and maybe a drink or two be mixed and served is really fun in their mind. The rewards of always being in front of your friends and family are what most gm’s want anyway, but some usually are not really ready for this when they are tasked to help make that happen every single day.